Australia Puts Google and Facebook in Crosshairs after Extensive Probe

Tech giants Facebook Inc. and Google are facing a regulatory clampdown in Australia, after a government inquiry showcased concerns about the market power held by the companies, and the impact of these firms on the country’s media industry. The development contributes to the increasing barrage of international regulatory actions against these major tech firms.

According to a final report by the competition watchdog of Australia, the review recommended for stronger anti-trust scrutiny of these major US companies, in addition to recommendations of deterrents such as penalties, for the inappropriate use and storage of personal user data, in addition to violations in competition and consumer laws.

The government is set to announce which recommendations stated in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, it will put into the new regulation, which will go into action by the end of the year.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, voiced the concerns relevant to the tech giants stating:  “The world has never before seen so much commercially sensitive and personal data collected and aggregated in just two companies.”

Lack of Transparency Key Concern for Watchdog

The recommendations follow years of actions by international regulators, all of which aim to loosen the grip of these companies on a wide range of factors including search engines, advertising, news, and more. So far, the EU has fined Google 8.2 billion euros in recent years over anti-trust violations. Similarly, Facebook agreed to enter into a settlement worth $5 billion to the US regulator over privacy concerns.

The Australian watchdog has voiced concerns on the lack of transparency about the functioning of key algorithms operational at Facebook and Google, and said that regulatory bodies should investigate how these large scale digital platforms display and rank news and advertisements. In addition, the regulator has the massive dominance of these platforms had led to diminishing conventional publishers, which has resulted in fewer journalism professionals who would work towards holding governments and organizations to account for their actions.

Leaders at the G-20 meet at Osaka had also called for these tech giants to increase efforts towards the prevention and detection of violent and extremist material on their platforms.